Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ROA meets with Department of Defense leaders

Last week, ROA’s legislative director, CAPT Marshall Hanson, met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Nancy E. Boyda. Secretary Boyda extended the invitation to a number of Military Coalition associations with National Guard and Reserve members.

One of the topics was TRICARE Reserve Select and how to improve participation in the program which has been cited at 6 to 7 percent of the overall Reserve Component population. The importance of communicating details of the program down to the drilling Reservist was emphasized. ROA also mentioned the need for continuity of health care, and how there is a need for seamless transition between health programs, such as TRS, and TRICARE while on active duty. Reservists currently have to disenroll and reenroll several times as the shift between duty statuses.

Additionally, ROA brought up the need for access to TRICARE after the Reservist leaves drill status. At a minimum, there is a need for Reservists to be included in the Continued Health Benefit Plan offered to active duty, which is only made available to Guard and Reserve members who have been on active duty within the last 18 months. The Association also emphasized the need to accelerate the implementation of gray area retiree enrollment in TRICARE, which while passed into law last year, but appears delayed until this fall.

The Yellow Ribbon reintegration program was discussed as the second topic. Secretary Boyda asked how the program can be improved. She talked about building a national cadre of instructors, who can build a rapport with attendees. ROA suggested also building a regional cadre from returning veterans of OIF and OEF.

ROA also met with General Carter F. Ham and Mr. Jeh C. Johnson, who chair the Comprehensive Review Working Group that will be doing the Department of Defense (DoD) study on homosexuals in the armed forces. It was emphasized that his study is not a referendum on the issue, but is intended to highlight issues that would impact the armed forces should Congress repeal Title 10, Section 654 of the U.S. Code, which is the current law prohibiting gays and lesbians in the military.

Fourteen associations were invited to this stakeholder meeting, which was the third meeting to be held. They asked the associations about the best ways to reach out to individuals to provide input on the study. This would not only be people currently serving, but also military families, and veterans. DoD may consider providing associations a survey to be distributed to membership online, seeking such input. The timeframe for such a survey would be June to July. ROA will keep its members informed as things develop as we expect to be invited to follow-up meetings.

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